Tomase: Alex Cora is Zeus, and the rest of us are his unworthy subjects

John Tomase
October 24, 2018 - 2:47 am

USA Today Sports

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Alex Cora’s skills are being wasted on baseball.

There’s peace to be negotiated in the Middle East, if only someone could push the right buttons. There’s a billion-dollar MegaMillions jackpot just waiting to be won and then donated to charity. Don’t even get me started on Trump.

The Red Sox manager has taken the idea of the golden touch to Chauncey Gardiner levels this postseason. Whereas Boston’s previous three champions were managed by someone who played a part in the Red Sox winning it all, this postseason feels like Cora manipulating some cosmic marionette strings.

Need a cycle? Start Brock Holt. Need an inning? Call Rick Porcello out of the bullpen. Need a game-sealing three-run homer in Game 1 of the World Series? Paging Eduardo Nunez.

That last one came on Tuesday night and electrified Fenway Park. Summoned to pinch hit for Rafael Devers against Dodgers left-hander Alex Wood, Nunez stepped to the plate with a lifetime average of .182 as a pinch hitter and just one extra-base hit, a triple.

That changed with one Shane Victorino-esque nine-iron at his ankles, the shot barely clearing the Monster to power the Red Sox to an 8-4 victory.

In the aftermath, Nunez deserved praise. He’s the one who swung the bat. And yet I suspect most of us were mesmerized that Cora had done it again.

“Well, I mean, we knew Nunez was going to hit a three-run homer there. It’s obviously why he put him in,” joked infielder Brock Holt. “I’m sure Raf would have done the same thing if he would have left him in, but he’s been great all year, and we joke around with him, because you guys always say he can’t push a wrong button.

“After Nunez hit that home run, he came down into the cage. I was yelling at him, ‘Hey A.C., man, everything you touch turns to gold!’”

It certainly feels that way. Is managing really this easy?

“No. It’s not that easy,” said bench coach Ron Roenicke, a former big league skipper himself. “Sometimes things just go the way that you’re hoping they’ll go. It’s hard to explain why that happens. But I really do believe when you do moves and they always come through, when you do it again, that guy’s confident that it’s going to work for you. That confidence kind of rolls on.”

It has certainly had a positive impact on the bullpen. When Cora summons a reliever in a pressure situation, the manager’s confidence provides an edge before the pitcher has even reached the mound.

“We chuckle about it some,” Roenicke said. “You get on that roll, and we hope it continues for another few games. It’s not just that it goes right, it’s that the players know it goes right. When the players know it always goes right, it gives them more confidence in those situations.”

This transcends simple confidence. As Roenicke noted, the average pinch hitter success about 22 percent of the time. For Cora to be batting 1.000 feels like someone operating on a different plane.

“A.C. made a great call putting Nuney in, but it seems like A.C.’s making the right call all the time,” said reliever Matt Barnes. “The guy’s a phenomenal manager. We’ve seen it time and time again. I don’t think there’s any coincidence to it. He knows the game. He’s well prepared. And he’s done a phenomenal job.”

Starter Chris Sale credits Cora for instilling a sense of belief.

“If you look at the season at a whole, that’s where our confidence comes from, him,” Sale said. “We’ve had confidence in him since Day 1. He’s calm, cool, collected. First inning, ninth inning, 10-run lead, tie ballgame -- it doesn't matter where we’re at, who’s up, who’s pitching. He’s got everything under control.”

He should probably put his skills to better use. Maybe unite Democrats and Republicans ahead of the midterms, decrease our dependence on foreign oil, and help Taco Bell design a signature product that won’t make Brock Holt sick.

In the meantime, his players have one small request.

“Hey,” said shortstop Xander Bogaerts, “three more times I want him to do it right and then we can all go home happy.”

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